FENWICK ISLAND – A potential partnership between Fenwick Island State Park and an offshore wind energy developer could bring new amenities to the beach.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Parks & Recreation will host a public open house from 5-7 p.m. to share and review potential improvements to Fenwick Island State Park as part of a partnership with Orsted, one of the two companies holding permits for offshore wind energy farms off the coast.
In a Fenwick Island Town Council meeting last week, Delaware State Parks Director Ray Bivens presented community members with an overview of potential projects at the state park and the partnership that could fund those capital improvements.
“Right now our park has been very one dimensional,” he said. “It’s been all about the ocean … I think this new plan would change it in a big way.”
Earlier this summer, DNREC signed a memorandum of understanding with Orsted to have a detailed discussion on a potential public-private partnership.
Delaware State Parks estimates the partnership would provide between $15 million and $18 million in improvements – paid for by Orsted – that focus on safety, vehicular access, accessibility and recreational amenities. Orsted would lease space from the park to build an interconnection facility, which would connect to existing power lines located in the park.
“They would essentially bring the power lines down that comes with the power generated offshore, come up underneath the highway and connect into a new building on the bayside that transmits the power …,” he said. “I’m looking at this totally as a potential park improvement project.”
Bivens said officials have identified $150 million in improvements at Fenwick Island State Park. He noted the partnership could fund new recreational amenities, lifeguard housing and safety projects, among other things.
“The first couple of times they came to talk to us, I said we were not interested because I thought they were coming to cable through our park and get to the Indian River Power Plant,” he said. “We are probably the easiest place to do that, and honestly, when it comes to denying electrical utility and things like that, you probably can’t stop it and it happens quite often with easements. But the third time they came to talk to us it was about this private-public partnership, where they would potentially plug right into the grid at Fenwick Island State Park.”
Bivens said the partnership would make Fenwick Island State Park the first offshore wind-powered state park in the country. But he said the arrangement would only be possible if all the necessary permits were approved.
“If the project doesn’t get all of its approved items and permits that it needs, it never happens,” he said.
Bivens said possible improvements include a small pavilion, pickleball courts, additional restrooms, and a nature center with event space. If all approvals are received, the park improvement project could start as early as 2021 with no park closures expected in the summer season.
“I want to encourage everyone to come to the open house …,” he said. “We are looking for feedback. It’s a lot of change, and we haven’t had those facilities in Fenwick Island State Park.”
The open house will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 2, from 5-7 p.m. at Fenwick Island Town Hall, located at 800 Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island.
For more information, visit destateparks.com/FenwickImprovements.
Orsted’s wind farm project will consist of no more than 15 wind turbines standing at 853 feet – the largest in the world – situated no closer than 19.5 miles from the coast and 26 miles from the Ocean City Pier.